Not so long ago, doctors and nurses were really convinced that it was better not to see your baby when he died. Parents were told that otherwise they would “only get attached” or “What they haven’t seen, isn’t there”.
Regularly, parents who lost their baby were not told if it was a boy or girl, didn’t give their child a name and never even saw it. Their baby was not allowed to be buried in Catholic cemeteries because it was not baptized and ended up ‘chucked over the hedge’. People never spoke about the deceased baby again and sometimes married couples never even spoke about it in private. Because of this, parents had to suffer through their grief in an intensely lonely way.
Jan Bleyen researched this and wrote the book Doodgeboren. The book is about how individuals and institutions have dealt with a still birth over the years and how parents try to deal with this.
In 2012 Jan Bleyen talks about the process of writing his book
in the VPRO programme “Boeken op zondag” (Books on Sunday).
Anneke Avis wrote the book “En Zwijgen was het Antwoord” (“And Silence was the Answer”).
She interviewed mothers and fathers who lost a baby around the time of birth in the period 1945-1970.
The parents talk about how they experienced the loss of their baby against the backdrop of the post-war years. It was best to continue as if nothing had happened, doctors, family and surroundings thought. There was hardly room for mourning and grief. Unfathomable now, very common at the time.
What was medical care like in those days? Doctors and midwives talk about the fate of these children and how psychosocial care made its appearance in obstetrics and neonatology, where previously only the medical-somatic expertise mattered.
The stories show how mothers and fathers carry this far-reaching event throughout their lives, sometimes with far-reaching consequences. Pediatrician-neonatologist Joke Kok wrote the foreword.
“After I gave birth, there was nothing. No coffin, no funeral, nothing to remember him by. Nowadays people have a place, but I have no place.” Trui Ververs
In a broadcast of the radio programme Jacobine on Sunday, December 9, 2018, Anne-Marie Vermaat talks about her son Bart, who was stillborn 51 years ago and whom she has never seen. Corien van Zweden also tells about her sister who died at birth in 1960 and the impact this had on her parents. She wrote the book “De Kunst van het Rouwen” (“The art of mourning”).
In March 2019 the magazine Zin published four beautiful stories of mothers who lost their newborn babies 20, 30, 40 and 50 years old, recorded by Margreet Botter.
Radio 1 broadcast the radio documentary in November 2015: “Er ligt een engeltje achter de heg”. (“There’s an angel behind the hedge.”)
More and more cemeteries are setting up a monument or a memorial especially for these children so that parents have a place to go and mourn.